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Asian American Studies

Asian American Studies

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Prince Abdul Rahman Ibrahima was a West African Prince captured in battle and sold as a slave in the United States at the age of 26. Rahman served as a slave for 40 years until 1829 when a letter he wrote came to the attention of Moroccan King. The king ordered the United States to release Abdul. Later he attempted to free his wife and sons but managed to free only his wife. He died four months later in Africa from a fever. Abdul suffered as a slave a typical experience from all other slaves. However, he enjoyed privileges such as serving as a supervisor and benefited from the Presidential order for his release.

Thomas Foster, the plantation owner, agreed to release Abdul on the terms that he would not live in the United States as a free man. These terms can be seen as an effort to prevent other slaves from a revolt. Abdul’s case was special as the American law supported the enslavement of black people to work on farms.

After his release, Prince Abdulrahman traveled across the United States making speeches and lobbying for money to pay for the freedom of his wife and children. His actions were interpreted as a breach of the release agreement. The authorities feared that it would inspire other slaves to revolt against the enslavement.

The majority of slaves were kidnaped or gathered from the West African States including Morocco, Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea and Senegal. These countries have a predominantly high number of Muslims.

The Southern States of the United States owned the majority of slaves. States with a large number of slaves include Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Delaware. Virginia, Georgia and the Carolina States had the highest numbers of enslaved Muslims.

The introduction of Islam in West Africa can be traced to the eighth century. It was a gradual and complex process. Historians highlight that Muslims fleeing from persecution in Mecca introduced Islam to the North and later West Africa. As the Mediterranean trade grew, the North Americans introduced Islam to West Africa.

Gris-gris originated from West Africa and was believed to bring luck and protect people from evil spirits. Inscribed with Quran verses it was also used as a birth control method. The use of Gris-gris suggests that Muslims believed in external forces.

Americans were predominantly Catholic and Protestant Christians and did not tolerate the Muslim slaves practice in the United States.

Muslim slaves were the most educated of all slaves and resisted Christianity by silently practicing Islam despite attempts of being converted to Christianity. Muslims held Islam as a way of life rather than just a religion.

Education and literacy were major advantages of Muslims and it separated them from the rest of non-Muslim peers. The majority of illiterate slaves never had autobiographies. Muslims had autobiographies tracing their origins, family lines and experiences.  Muslims were already used in authority structures and favored among the plantation owners as foremen in charge of the rest of the slaves.

Slavery in Africa was different from the chattel type of slavery started by Europeans. African slaves were enslaved to pay off a debt or crime while American slaves were held as property. Egyptians held slaves who were mostly abducted from the neighboring communities. The declaration of independence forced the slave owners to free the slaves against their will.

Islam brought education, literacy and trade to West Africa and also enslavement, as the Arabs took a lead role in kidnapping individuals from West Africa and selling them as slaves.

Muslims comprised less than 10% of the slaves in the Americas and were the most educated and religious group. Majority of the slaves were illiterate with no established religion. <

Spanish slave owners and buyers viewed religion as a threat and a source of resistance.

Protestants offered conversion opportunities to Christianity. Protestants later supported the end of slavery. The Catholic Church historically supported slavery and required the slaves, mainly in Spain, to convert to Catholicism. Over time, both Christian groups opposed slavery.

Lynching was a cruel method used by American slave owners to punish resisting or defective slaves. The slaves were mainly hanged as a lesson to others.

Malcolm X was born after the declaration of independence. Both he and his father died as victims of the KKK gang and Black Legion, its radical offshoot.

Malcolm X believed that Africans should be free economically and also socially. Thus, he supported the “whatever” means to achieve fiscal independence.

Debt imprisons a person as it takes away their mental and social freedom, peace and even property. Similarly, slavery was a form of enslavement where social, economic and human rights were taken away.

Malcolm X’s mother was the most influential woman in his life.

After coming out of prison, Malcom X changed his behavior, became a strict Muslim and abstained from drinking and smoking. Despite the fact that FBI was watching him, no flaw was found in his character and he was described as smart and morally upright.

Malcolm was nicknamed the “little” after his father, but dropped the name and added “X” being inspired by converting to Islam after prison. 

Malcolm X was unreligious, wild and had behavior problems before prison. It is correct to state that prison changed and modeled his new character. Malcolm denounced Christianity and God being a strict Muslim.

Malcolm X quit middle school after a teacher stated that a “nigga” was not fitting for a law career. Malcolm X stood against racism and could not adapt to the all-White school.

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